News: Government dos and don'ts for reopening offices

Culture

Government dos and don'ts for reopening offices

All the organizations are expected to align their operations to these guidelines, if not already done.
Government dos and don'ts for reopening offices

The Governments of India and Haryana have brought out various guidelines and advisories on the various aspects of the pandemic. Essential services were allowed to go on even with the first phase of the nation-wide lockdown. A few other economic activities have been permitted from 20 April 2020.

Since Gurugram has a unique industrial and workforce mix, owning to its adjacency to Delhi and various NCR cities, the District Administration has decided to go for more stringent measures in a few domains, to safeguard the interests of various stakeholders. All organizations should hence always adopt more stringent measures, in case of any disparity among the Central, State, and District Administration guidelines. Organizations providing essential services (and hence already running) are also expected to align their operations to these guidelines, if not already done.  

Sanitization 

  • Ensure regular deep cleaning and sanitization of all common areas and touch points using GOI approved disinfectants. In case of shifts, do this before every shift. 
  • Prepare rosters and maintain records and purchase orders of materials/chemicals used. 
  • Check that the chemicals and sanitizers you are using are approved and have a sufficient quantity of active ingredients. 

Posters, Helpline, and Training

  • GOI-approved guidelines to identify COVID-19 symptoms and precautionary measures against it should be abundantly displayed. 
  • Conduct regular drills and training of the employees with recommended social distancing of at least 6 ft among all. 
  • Make frequent announcements (using mikes or similar methods) on the work floor, telling the employees to be mindful of their actions. 
  • The government helpline number and Address and Contact Numbers of nearest government and private hospitals must be displayed at multiple locations 

No overlap of shifts 

  • There should be no overlap of shifts. A minimum time of an hour should be there between two shifts for cleaning to happen. 

Doing away with social distancing disruptors 

  • Do not use biometric attendance systems 
  • The floor of the office should be clearly marked with colored tape (squares or circles) at every six feet. Employees should be allowed to walk strictly in those squares or circles. This will need a lot of reinforcement for everyone to get used to it. Other cues of social distancing should also be used; for instance, mark the edges of the walls and doors with colors such as red (use tape, if necessary) to discourage accidental touching 
  • Have a fixed seating plan. Send out a clear message to employees used to moving from one seat to the other. 
  • Common resources such as gates, lifts, sanitizers, etc. could be handled by dedicated people. • Stairs should be preferred over lifts. Lifts should have maximum as many people facing the walls (with clear markings to stand on the lift floor) that would allow ensuring 6 ft distance among all
  • Door knobs and handles should either be removed or handled by dedicated staff.
  • Self-serving should be done away with in cafeterias. Ideally, cafeterias should be discontinued and packed lunches should be made available or employees should be encouraged to carry their own food.

Life at and beyond the workplace 

  • Daily temperature scans at the workplace must be made. 
  • Employees must check their temperature at home, too, and should not turn up for work in case of fever or any other symptom of flu.
  • Don’t dismiss a mild rise in the temperature of any employee. Seek professional advice.
  • Ask your employees not to self-medicate, even with OTC drugs such as paracetamol. 
  • The way you usually expect your employees to live by your organizational values in their social lives, too, you must expect them to further the cause of social distancing beyond workplace, too. With the ICMR making initial estimates of about 80% COVID-19 patients showing zero to mild symptoms, it will be a big risk to have employees that don’t follow social distancing beyond work and don’t actively promote it in their families, especially with the elderly and children.
  • It is mandatory for everyone to use the Aarogya Setu app.

Use of face mask 

  • This may just be the single most differentiating factor in our fight against COVID19. Your employees may find it inconvenient, may say that they only took it off for a moment, and may even complain of headaches, but this is simply not negotiable.
  • It would augur well if an organization provides face masks to its employees. The use of recyclable cloth masks should be encouraged. 

Gutka, Tobacco, Smoke breaks 

  • All these are not good for health anyway and may even make it more challenging to control this menace and people to maintain good immunity. The use of these has been outlawed. 
  • Smoke breaks in organizations are social-distancing disruptors. Encourage your employees to get prescription nicotine patches or gums. Smoking at public places is anyway a punishable offence. Close those smoking rooms, if you have them. 

Use of technology and tactics to beat COVID-19 

  • Use technology to beat COVID-19. It will be good to invest in automatic doors and sanitizer dispensers 
  • There are many frugal technologies, such as the use of foot-operated pedals to use taps, that can make it easier for you to manage operations. 
  • Window/Split ACs with HEPA-based Air Purifiers and Exhaust Fans are better than Centralized ACs to manage COVID-19 risk. If your office can manage this, it will be a worthwhile investment. 
  • For job works requiring collaboration that would interfere with social distancing, redesign the production flow, even if it adds to production time substantially. 

To Wash or to Sanitize Hands 

  • Washing the hands with soap and water for twenty seconds is better than using sanitizers. But sanitizers will need to be used where using soap is not practical. Look for the content of isopropyl or ethyl alcohol in the sanitizer though. 
  • Frequent use of sanitizers or washing of hands mandates the use of moisturizers overnight – otherwise the skin may develop micro cracks and invite infections.

Employee Mix 

  • Don’t insist on employees with comorbidities such as pulmonary, cardiac or renal issues, diabetes, hypertension or obesity to attend work. 
  • Consider allowing parents with children below 5 yrs of age to work from home. 

CCTVs and Surprise Audits 

  • District administration should have access to CCTV footage of work-floor. If there is no sufficient coverage, ensure it before beginning operations. Ideally, a web-enabled CCTV system will be preferred, but even the legacy CCTV systems are fine. 
  • Police, Administration and Labour Teams will make surprise checks and audits to check your compliance. Any deviation will result in a summary stoppage of work and will lead to the initiation of criminal proceedings too. 

Transport 

  • Ideally, the employees must be housed within the premises. In those cases where it is not possible, employees should be made to house in an adjacent accommodation. Between the work and accommodation, there can be a company-owned transport with mandatory nod to social distancing (hence, one employee per row).
  • Employees can even travel on feet or by their own vehicles (one person per vehicle).
  • In rare circumstances, a driver may be permitted for a car, provided there is an impermeable barrier between the driver and the passenger and the AC is not switched on.
  • Inter-state or inter-district travel of the employees is not allowed (except for essential services, where also it is rationed). 

HR Policies’ Reconfiguration

  • If there already isn’t, there must be a health cover for all the employees now, before the beginning of operations. It can be a private Mediclaim policy or ESI, as per the case. 
  • Employees’ non-adherence with social distancing and hygiene practices will reflect poorly on their annual appraisals; repeated indiscipline, substantiated by the evidence of other employees, must result in their summary removal from the job, in spite of their capability and performance. So, these values to ensure safety for all must form the core of updated HR policies that evaluate performance. 

Remain Informed 

  • Regularly check District Admin’s Social Media page for updates on Containment Zones. 
  • Keep yourself updated with the various guidelines issued by the Central and State Governments. 
  • GO through the advisories by the MHA, State Govt, NASSCOM, ASSOCHAM, FICCI, CII, etc., to incorporate various best practices.

Submit a Detailed Plan For 

  • Housing of workers in premises /safe quarters 
  • Safe transportation of employees 
  • Shift staggering to avoid the rush on the road and the works 
  • Screening of workers/employees at entry 
  • Social distancing on the shop floor 
  • Safe food and water 
  • Providing appropriate PPE for all workers /staff, as applicable 
  • Safe loading /unloading of goods 
  • Other points discussed above. 

The central government has provided relaxations in lockdown 3.0 and the companies in different zones should follow the guidelines to operate seamlessly. COVID-19 is still impacting many parts of the country and businesses are affected badly. Employers and employees should follow all the government guidelines in order to stay safe. 

Read the guidelines here- COVID-19: Steps to be Taken by Organizations before resuming operations

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Topics: Culture, #COVID-19

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